The Escape Artist (2012)

A solo performance work with spoken text, 9 songs and 3-channel video.

Written, Designed & Performed – John Kelly
Original Songs – John Kelly & Carol Lipnik
Additional Songs – Claudio Monteverdi, John Barry
Co-Director and Dramaturge – Dudley Saunders
Video Co-Design, Edit – Jeff Morey
Arrangements, Piano, Accordion, Flute – John DiPinto
Cello – Nioka Workman
Violin – Justin Smith
Guitar – John Kelly
Additional Vocals – Carol Lipnik
Performers on video: Matt Connolly, Jeremy Gender, Brent Harris, Agosto Machado, Claire Moodey, Matt Nassar, Brandon Olson, Ethan Shoshan

While rehearsing a performance work based on the life of the Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio, a stressed-out performer has a catastrophic trapeze accident. While stranded on a gurney in a hospital emergency room for 15 hours with a broken neck (Alice in Wonderland meets The Matrix), he escapes this harsh reality by finding refuge in the images that flood his mind — the sinners and saints, the prostitutes and gods — that populate Caravaggio’s paintings.

The Escape Artist contains an extensive spoken text interspersed with 7 Original Songs (written by John Kelly & Carol Lipnik), as well as 2 ‘covers’ (a James Bond theme song and an aria from an opera by Monteverdi); pre-recorded music accompaniment of these songs is the soundtrack for sections of projected video, and are sung live by Kelly. In the final song of ‘The Escape Artist’ he accompanies himself on electric guitar.

A projected 3-channel video component is integrated as a crucial aspect of the performance; 3 screens are hung directly behind and above the table/bed. As the performer spends most of the performance lying on the table/bed, there is a camera rigged directly above him that functions as a ‘live feed’, and projects his face in close-up onto the center screen, giving the audience immediate access. The flanking screens, and at times all 3 screens together show his points of view:
–what he literally sees (doctors, nurses, hospital ceiling)
–what he sees in the refuge of his imagination (the paintings of Caravaggio)

PREMIERE: Performance Space 122, NY, April 14-30, 2012
(Commissioned through 2010 Ethyl Eichelberger Award)


The Dazzling Darkness – Carol Lipnik / John Kelly
Cupid Song – Carol Lipnik / John Kelly
Cara Viaggio – Carol Lipnik / John Kelly
You Only Live Twice – John Barry
Oblivion Soave – Claudio Monteverdi
Profit Blues – John Kelly
Out Of Body – Carol Lipnik / John Kelly
All That’s Left – Carol Lipnik / John Kelly
The Escape Artist – John Kelly